It is almost a year to the day since then Squalicum junior Patrick Gibson sat next to then-sophomore Chris Fredlund on the long ride back from the Class 2A Boys' Cross Country State Championships in Pasco.
The ride was a good one, as Gibson had just won the first boys' individual state title in the program's history and the team had finished sixth overall.
"I remember sitting next to Patrick, and he was giving me all this advice and answering all my questions," Fredlund said in a phone interview. "He convinced me to stick with running and to give all my commitment to it. ... I think when you have someone you look up to so much, it's hard to say no to them."
A year later, Fredlund's commitment to the sport is paying big dividends for him and the second-ranked Storm as they prepare to head back to Pasco for the state meet on Saturday, Nov. 3.
"Chris is a hard worker," Squalicum coach Katrina Henry said in a phone interview. "He will do exactly what is asked. He doesn't question it at all - he just does it to the best of his ability."
That includes when Gibson asked him to focus his offseason work on running.
Doing so meant giving up soccer - a sport he had grown up loving to play - so that he could focus on living a "running lifestyle."
"I've really been trying to take the time I have off really off and try to keep myself as healthy as I can," Fredlund said. "You've got to make sure you're eating healthy and stretching properly and getting enough sleep each night - those little things that help make you more successful. Patrick Gibson always says if you live the running lifestyle, you can go a long ways."
Gibson is obviously living proof of that, as he will return to try to defend his state title on Saturday.
"It's a great honor to run with somebody like Patrick," Fredlund said. "To have a great friend and a great running mate who is one of the best runners in the country is quite an honor. He's a fantastic guy, and a great role model for what it takes to be successful in this sport."
It's a blueprint to success that Fredlund has definitely tried to replicate.
So far, it's working pretty well.
After two seasons of battling shin splints, Fredlund has remained relatively healthy so far this fall, and that has helped the Storm.
Fredlund enters state with the Class 2A's 13th-fastest time in the state so far, a personal-best 15:50.12 he used to finish seventh at the Northwest Conference Championships last month. He was the top non-senior finisher in the race and knocked nearly a minute, 27 seconds off his time in the meet as a sophomore by turning in his first sub-16 minute 5,000-meter time.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, he placed sixth at the 2A Northwest District Meet in Arlington in 16:09.1 - more than a minute faster than he ran at the 2011 district meet at South Whidbey - to help the Storm clinch a trip to state with a second-place finish.
The strong fall has followed up an impressive track season last spring, when Fredlund just missed the state final in the 800 meters and helped the Storm's 4x400 relay place second.
"I think you really saw him take a step forward last spring during track," Henry said. "He really improved a lot, because he put in a lot of hard work over the winter. ... I think his success then gave him the confidence he needed. He now knows that he's a good runner and he belongs up at the front."
And as he's gained more confidence being up front, he's become more confident in his abilities as a leader for the team.
Though he's mostly been a leader by example so far with his outstanding work ethic, Henry said, Fredlund would like to take on an even bigger leadership role next year.
"I want to be the next person that people on this team look up to," Fredlund said. "I'm trying to become the next Patrick Gibson. Not only for myself, but for the team. I want to broaden my horizons when it comes to leading. I put myself out there to live the running lifestyle, and it's been great for me. Now I want to be the guy that helps sell my teammates on making that commitment so that they can improve."
He's already started to do that with Gibson.
"When he's telling everyone to stay hydrated and get enough rest, I need to be the guy there giving him a little nudge to make sure he's taking care of himself, too," Fredlund said. "It's nice to have someone else looking out for you."
With everybody on the team looking out for one another, Fredlund and the Storm are looking for another big finish at state on Saturday.
"We're all really focused," he said. "We're all very excited, but we've been extremely dedicated when it comes to training this year. We are ecstatic to be going back to state and have a great time, but we're looking to finish strong. We have some great seniors that are capable of doing some pretty special things and one of our coaches, Corey Sorenson, is leaving after this race, so we want to run strong for all of them."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
STATE CROSS COUNTRY
When: Saturday, Nov. 3
Site: Sun Willows Golf Course, Pasco
Class 1A girls: 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A girls: 11 a.m.
Class 1A boys: Noon
Class 2A boys: 1:30 p.m.
Class 3A boys: 2 p.m.
COUNTY 2A BOYS STATE QUALIFIERS
Runner Yr. Qual. Time School
Patrick Gibson Sr. 15:41.6 Squalicum
Conner Johnsen Sr. 15:58.2 Sehome
Reed Henderson Sr. 16:04.5 Sehome
Chris Fredlund Jr. 16:09.1 Squalicum
Kirby Overman So. 16:17.9 Sehome
Brian Chmelik Jr. 16:22.1 Bellingham
Joe Charbonneau Sr. 16:23.0 Bellingham
Liam Toney Sr. 16:29.9 Sehome
Nick Gallaher Jr. 16:34.6 Squalicum
Simon Maguire Jr. 16:43.3 Bellingham
Paris Speidel Sr. 16:54.5 Bellingham
Nolan Jones So. 16:55.0 Sehome
Dylan Dubuque Sr. 16:56.7 Squalicum
Jamie Sayegh Jr. 17:07.1 Bellingham
Jacob Stahl Jr. 17:11.5 Bellingham
Nathan LeTavec Jr. 17:11.7 Sehome
Jared Radtke Jr. 17:12.2 Squalicum
Peter Finfrock Sr. 17:25.6 Sehome
Dillon Rinauro So. 17:32.1 Squalicum
North Bennett Jr. 17:36.7 Squalicum
Rowan Chappell Sr. 18:05.7 Bellingham
NOTE: Belingham, Sehome and Squalicum qualified as teams. Lineups subject to change.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.